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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

August 21, 2012 at 9:23 AM

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Summer of Frank Ocean: 'Pilot Jones'

Frank Ocean's "Channel Orange" is the summer album of 2012 — a low-key stroke of genius from the Los Angeles-via-New Orleans R&B singer-songwriter, making headlines for bringing man/man romance into pop R&B. But it's deeper than that. I'm blogging about each song individually, in order. Sorry but Internet Explorer does not support the full album stream below.

An odd little song about loving a go-nowhere drug dealer, "with the sweetest kiss I've ever known," "Pilot Jones" has no chorus, and a massive bass line that moves the track in waves. Some songs in rap music are called "bangers," which exercise speakers' subwoofers especially well. "Pilot Jones" is perhaps the softest banger ever recorded. It is not rap, but drowning in glorious bass and pricked with finger snaps for percussion, it functions that way. For my money Ocean's vocals are more beautiful here than anywhere else on "Channel Orange," his raw falsetto breaking into a tenor in carved lines. The way he sings "why" in the line "I just don't know why I keep trying to keep a grown woman sober" is heartbreaking. And a good example of some of the lightness he doesn't get enough credit for imparting to his moody music: the opening lyric, "You're always smoking in the house. What if my mother comes over?"

Summer of Frank Ocean: "Thinkin Bout You"
Summer of Frank Ocean: "Fertilizer"
Summer of Frank Ocean: "Sierra Leone"
Summer of Frank Ocean: "Sweet Life"
Summer of Frank Ocean: "Super Rich Kids (feat. Earl Sweatshirt)"

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